Either you watched it on Comcast, witnessed it in person, or caught the replay on the highlights. No matter when or how you saw the last play of tonight's game against the Boston Celtics, you're still probably wondering: Why was Ray Allen open? Why, of all players, would the Sixers leave Allen -- known from coast-to-coast for his smooth outside jumper?
We'll answer that in a second. But the hard reality is the Sixers did leave him, and it cost them a victory: The Boston Celtics won 100-99 when Allen made a three-pointer with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. Six seconds earlier, Andre Iguodala made a fadeaway jumper that looked to be the game-winner.
Why was Allen open? Here's the sequence of events:
1.) In the timeouts before the Celtics inbounded on the sideline with 6.8 seconds left, Sixers coach Tony DiLeo called for switches on all screens. DiLeo did the same thing, to great effect, in the win over the Houston Rockets. In that game, Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert switched an on-ball screen, and Dalembert effectively guarded Houston's Tracy McGrady, tipping his three-pointer at the buzzer. DiLeo called for this same defense tonight. Like we've said, the risk with that is a potential mismatch with a big switching onto a little, and vice-versa, but with such little time on the clock, switching (usually) ensures that everyone on the court will at least be guarded.
2.) After the timeout, Thaddeus Young said the team re-huddled on the court and re-emphasized the strategy to switch everything.
3.) The Celtics inbounded the ball and got the ball to Paul Pierce (who would have been the other likely candidate to shoot the final shot). Pierce drove left, at Ray Allen, as Glen "Big Baby" Davis set a flare screen, sending Allen to the corner.
4.) Young, guarding Allen, came over * (I've amended this thanks to Statman) towards Pierce's penetration as Allen flared to the corner. Young said he thought that Dalembert -- guarding Davis -- would switch onto Allen in the corner. Young said, for some reason, Dalembert (with whom I did not get a chance to speak) didn't make the switch. Young said when he saw this, he tried to recover to Allen but couldn't get there in time. Young called this a miscommunication. Young said that immediately after the game, a few of the Sixers watched the replay of the final sequence on the television in the locker room.
5.) After the game, DiLeo said he was trying to sub in Willie Green for Dalembert, but the referees told him that Dalembert must play a possession (DiLeo put Dalembert in the game during the first timeout, then tried to sub him out during the 20-second timeout before any game had been played). It sounds like it would be easy to pin the blame on Dalembert, but he did an amazing job switching in that Rockets game and played a heck of a game last night: He had 14 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks. *Again, here is an additional point: With Young coming over so hard on Pierce (with additional viewing of the replays), even if the Sixers were switching everything, it seems Young overhelps on Pierce and turns his back to Allen, which is unacceptable even if you know you're switching all screens. While you would absolutely come at Pierce harder as a help defender if you knew any screen would be switched (because you would know you wouldn't have to negotiate a screen on the recovery), you just can't lose sight of Allen in your vision, which is what Young did.
*More additional, which won't be solved until tomorrow: Does Young know he made a mistake in over committing to the ball? Or does he believe the whole thing can be chalked up to a "miscommunication"?
So that's why Ray Allen was open. It seems frustrating, but so would a pull-up elbow jumper from Paul Pierce, on whom Young was sliding in to help.
Also of note, if you're wondering about Elton Brand -- who played 8 minutes, 40 seconds in the first half without scoring a point, then did not play at all in the second -- the Sixers said his shoulder "stiffened up." DiLeo said Brand said he "could play if he needed to." That sounds like a topic for another post all together.
These last two games -- the loss to the New Jersey Nets, and tonight's -- were brutal, brutal losses.